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n°20  |  November   2007
Guest contributors
“Combining performance, service continuity and flexibility, while reducing costs”
Interview with Bernard Bury, Information Systems Director, Sonaca, Belgium

Sonaca has chosen Bull to help consolidate its IT infrastructure and migrate its SAP R/3 and BW environments, with total security of data.

logo Sonaca

Sonaca is an aeronautical manufacturer based in Belgium. The company employs over 2,000 people worldwide and has subsidiaries in Brazil, Canada and the USA. The Group specializes in the design, fabrication and certification of aerospace structures for major manufacturers including Airbus, Bombardier, Dassault Aviation, Embraer, Grob and Lockheed Martin. Sonaca is also actively involved in space and defense programs including Columbus and Hermes.

Why did you decide to rationalize your IT infrastructure?
As part of our plan 2007, our challenge was to achieve a dramatic reduction in spending: in the order of 20%. For the IT Department, the main challenge was to consolidate our server infrastructure including our business-critical SAP infrastructure into a single environment. We decided to standardize our information systems into one operating system. There was another advantage in doing this, as it meant we could merge the systems administration on this single environment.

Following our call for tender, we selected Bull for the migration project and chose the AIX environment for all platforms. The commitment and creativity demonstrated by Bull’s teams made all the difference. They came up with innovative proposals for implementing the new architecture, and the distribution of the virtual systems was particularly well thought-out.

How has the project gone?
It was delivered on time and to budget. We demanded very stringent commitment to results, which was very largely met despite the size of the project. The context for the migration was actually quite extensive, because we had three production environments to move over from HP-UX to AIX, of which SAP/R3, which included the development, test and production systems.

What are the direct benefits?
Apart from the cost aspects I’ve already mentioned, we have succeeded in doubling our performance: something which our users in the various different departments noticed immediately when it came to using their applications!

Another benefit is continuity of service. Bull carried out the clustering of servers on two sites with the appropriate tools. These clustering and remote data replication techniques ensure the high availability of our information systems, and protect our data and applications in case of a disaster.

Finally, we’ve achieved greater flexibility and scalability. We now have an IT architecture that allows us to absorb increases in loading very easily, without having to buy additional servers. Effectively, thanks to the virtualization resources provided by the Escala servers, we can share them out in a very flexible way.

Do you have other projects in progress?
We’re currently working on a business-critical project that involves the management of our manufacturing processes. We need an extremely robust solution for this, combining business process orchestration and workflow management.
Having looked at all the main proprietary and Open Source solutions available, we felt strongly that the JOnAS/Bonita/Orchestra trio was the most appropriate for our needs in terms of price, quality and performance.
In this instance as well, the decisive factors were cost reduction, combined with the professional Open Source support that Bull provides.

What advice would you give someone considering similar projects?
Above all, focus on the technical and interpersonal skills of the people who will be involved: they’re absolutely critical to a successful project.

Then you need to have a clear guarantee of results written into the contract, with financial penalties.

And finally, you need direct local access to high-quality support. With Bull’s local team providing support, backed up by its experts at Echirolles that gives us access to an extremely valuable service.

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